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    U.S. Army supports Spain during STEADFAST LEDA

    U.S. Army supports Spain during STEADFAST LEDA

    Photo By Spc. Michael Alexander | Lead liaison officers from various nations pose for a photo during STEADFAST LEDA 2021...... read more read more

    BYDGOSZCZ, Poland (12/17/2021) — Like any good friendship, multiple nations working together can mean pushing toward a common goal or simply supporting one nation to reach a specific achievement.

    That is exactly what happened during Steadfast Leda 2021. Since February 2020, Spain had been making preparations to become NATO’s Warfighting Corps Headquarters at the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - Spain. STLE21 was the combat readiness evaluation during which NRDC-ESP met certain objectives to be certified as NATO’s Warfighting Corps HQ. Multiple nations and units were involved in the process by providing response cells. U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Luckie with 1st Infantry Division - Forward, was the response cell chief for the 1ID, located in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

    “We were one of the division headquarters under NRDC-ESP, and they were the primary training audience,” Luckie said. “What STLE21 did was certify them as NATO's Warfighting Corps for fiscal year 22. As a response cell, we acted as one of their subordinate divisions through this training exercise. We functioned like a normal division staff during large-scale combat operations. We sent them personnel reports, casualty loss reports. We planned fire missions, out of contact attacks with our helicopters, and we maneuvered brigade combat teams.”

    Luckie described STLE21 as a large-scale combat operation using multiple corps in offensive and defensive operations against a simulated adversary over simulated terrain to stimulate and improve staff and decision-making processes.

    “What it really gets us after is two things: interoperability and reassuring allies and partners,” Luckie said. “We weren't originally programmed to be part of STLE21, however, the U.S. Army Europe and Africa commander and the NRDC-ESP commander requested that a U.S. division participate, and we were already there. That directly goes into reassuring allies and partners and just being a good neighbor.”

    Luckie said one of the best parts of seeing people from different nations work together under a NATO construct is that now they don’t just see NATO as an organization, but they can put a face to it. They’ve worked with people, started friendships and can have someone to reach out to in the future. Sometimes the people who meet during exercises like this end up working together again later on in life. This was the case for Luckie and Spanish Army Maj. Ignacio Guerras, NRDC-ESP, who was in charge of coordinating and preparing the exercise.

    Luckie and Guerras had met previously while they were both deployed to Iraq. They met again when Luckie visited Valencia, Spain, to assist in the planning process for STLE21.

    “Interoperability is crucial to the success of any operation in the NATO framework because it allows international forces to work together effectively from the very start of the operation,” Guerras said. “In any other way, it would be impossible because every nation has their own command control systems and procedures. Once you get together, all those items have to be previously prepared to work together and to be functional.”

    As NRDC-ESP was the training audience and the one’s working to be certified as NATO’s Warfighting Corps HQ, their systems and software were what was used between all the participants. In preparation for the possible difficulties of multiple nations using a new-to-them system, NRDC-ESP had response cell representatives conduct training in the months leading up to the exercise.

    “For this exercise in particular, we created a kind of train-the-trainers course to bring all the response cells representatives here,” Guerras said. “This included different functional areas such as operations, intelligence, logistics and liaison officers to provide the representatives with the initial knowledge to be involved in the exercise using our systems.”

    One of these representatives was U.S. Army Capt. Selina Bocanegra, who was the LNO for 1ID in the exercise. She said she was the main outlet for anything needed between NRDC-ESP and 1ID.

    “For NATO, the primary language is English,” Bocanegra said. “You have people from Greece, Spain, Poland and Portugal—several countries where English is not their primary language. Going strictly English for this exercise was kind of challenging, especially watching people brief in English. They sent me forward to Spain because I'm fluent in Spanish, and it made a huge difference. They were really comfortable coming to me for anything just because they were able to explain in Spanish, brief me in Spanish or ask questions in Spanish, and then I would just relay that over to the Exercise Control in Bydgoszcz.”

    Bocanegra said she worked with several LNOs from other countries during the training that led to STLE21. They have kept in touch, and she expects will continue to do so.

    “One of the biggest things that has been the aim of every entity and subordinate units has been to collaborate and provide enough people in the right roles to accomplish the mission,” Guerras said. “It has been very good to work together in this environment.”

    Luckie said working together went beyond just meeting people and putting faces to names.

    “Overall we had a very positive experience,” Luckie said. “We got really close and worked really closely with the Tridentina division out of Italy. Across the board, their staff and our staff were very integrated sharing ideas, templates [and] products. We just nested really well on a professional and personal level. Same thing with the Polish 12th Mechanized Division. I really bonded and got along great with their command, their response chief and their deputy commander.”

    The exchange of knowledge between nations flowed multiple ways. This was the first time Spain had incorporated a Joint Air Ground Integration Center in an exercise.

    Bocanegra said some of the LNOs were able to use their own previous experiences to help it run more smoothly. Some of the 1ID Soldiers were able to learn different ways of doing things. Some response cells had better templates for organizational documents, and others had different ways of conducting reconnaissance.

    “When you look at interoperability across the three dimensions of human, procedural and technical, human interoperability, I think, is where we got the most out of the exercise because you had a bunch of junior officers and junior NCOs networking and working with peers who are going through a similar experience,” Luckie said. “They got to interact with our NATO allies and partners on a day-to-day basis in a constructive environment learning how each nation does things slightly differently, how different armies under different educational systems with different theories of victory, and how they approach warfighting. That's probably the biggest level of interoperability we got.”

    STLE21 was a unique experience for the 1ID Soldiers for multiple reasons —one being they had to experience the exercise performing above their usual pay grade and responsibilities.

    “All of us got to see how these types of operations unfold from a very different vantage point than what our current experience level is,” Luckie said. “No one did a job that was at their grade. Everyone did one that was significantly above. So it was a good learning opportunity for the entire team to see how their warfighting functions work at a different echelon.”

    Luckie also said the 1ID Soldiers involved now have a better understanding of how a U.S. division headquarters fits into a NATO framework, what roles and responsibilities stay the same and which ones change.

    While STLE21 was beneficial for the 1ID and other units involved, ultimately it was done in the spirit of helping NRDC-ESP become NATO’s Warfighting Corps HQ.

    “Once the execution phase finished and all the training and certification objectives were achieved, it showed we’re ready to accomplish that role in NATO,” Guerras said. “So now Spain is ready to provide a Warfighting Corps HQ with combat readiness.”

    There were many firsts for NRDC-ESP and the multiple response cells involved. Exercises like this are a great example of allies and partners coming together to work toward a goal, common or not.



    Date Taken: 12.17.2021
    Date Posted: 12.17.2021 06:50
    Story ID: 411415
    Location: PL

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